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Hello Hello Hello

Matt O'Connor
boulderer and manager of
the Boulder Rock Club

Matty O'C. Matty O'C. Matty O'C. Matty O'C. Matty O'C.


FRB: How did you get into climbing Matt?

Matt: Well, I had been bike racing for several years and finally got burned out. A good friend of mine, Dave Pelletier, took me to Pawtuckaway in southern New Hampshire for the first time. It was all over after that. All I wanted to do was pull on grips.

FRB: Who were some of your early mentors?

Matt: Charlie Bentley had to be my first real mentor. We were both at the University of New Hampshire at the time, along with other guys like Dean Potter. Charlie belayed me on my first 5.10 lead, which was one of the best moments of my life to that time. I also used to follow him around on some of his bouldering circuits at Pawtuckaway, and I couldn’t believe someone could hold on to stuff that small. Other than Charlie, Jim Schimberg, a guide and climber in Plymouth, NH, was a great friend and mentor.

FRB: Who were some of your early climbing partners?

Matt: Well, Charlie for a bit, Dave Pelletier, Dave Mackey, and the standard East Coast crew. Then I moved to Breckenridge, CO and hooked up with some of the best climbing partners of my life, only because they always had so much fun. Earl, Chad & Turkey Dave. When I opened the Breck Rock Gym, I climbed with Lance Hadfield and John Soar a lot. Those were special partners because we developed a lot of the rock around Summit County and Independence Pass together. A good man named John Jacobs as well.

FRB: Who do you climb with usually?

Matt: I have to admit, 80% of the time I climb by myself. As social as I am, climbing is a lot about me and my space; chilling out. But I do get psyched about the group, and climb a lot with Mike Moelter, Xander Oxman, John Stack, Pat Adams, Ian Powell, the Boulder Rock Crew. They have great attitudes and all climb way harder than I do, which is motivating. Pat says something funny every once in a while, which keeps things all good.

FRB: How many years have you been climbing Matty?

Matt: About 14 years now. Good Lord. Wasn’t thinking about any college reunions until just then. Maybe I should pick up a cane.

FRB: What changes would you like to see
          in the climbing world?

Matt: That’s a tricky question. There is a natural progression to every sport, some of it is good, some of it can be bad if the roots are ignored or lost. Mostly more climber involvement in the protection of the natural resource, either through time, money or practice, especially joining the Access Fund. Everyone has their own way of contributing to the community, and I hope they take that opportunity. I would like to see growth in the professional aspect of the sport, so that top climbers can make a living through what they do, and that climbing venues can hold successful events. Of course, this growth would mean more climbers and more impact, but in reality, we are such a small community that we can make it work.

FRB: What else do you like to do besides climb?

Matt: Well, being an ex-bike racer, and being married to the best set of legs on the Front Range, I ride a lot. I listen to a lot of jazz, play my bass, go fly-fishing. Living in Breck for so long gave me these telemark legs, so I might as well use them on the hill as much as I can, seeing as they don't help me boulder any harder.

FRB: What are some of your favorite moments
          in your climbing career?

Matt: Well, for sure that first 5.10, Peer Pressure (Rumney), lead with Charlie. In New Hampshire in 1989 that still seemed really hard, and it was a big milestone. Definitely climbing the Naked Edge in '92 with Frank Jordan, a friend from Germany. I had read so much about it, looked at it in mags for years, that to be on it was amazing…then to redpoint each pitch…that was special. But it seems like the best moments have been watching partners do their projects. I've always seemed to get more psyched for my partners doing their projects than for me doing mine…which makes just about every day really good. Doing Super Chief out at Carter FINALLY was pretty damn cool. I had never really tried that hard.

FRB: Have you done any first ascents?

Matt: Sure, I think. Some stuff at Pawtuckaway that was hard for the time and scary. Dean Potter was setting standards even then, and since we didn't bolt stuff, and mostly it was face climbing there, he would get really psyched, maybe do something on TR, then fire it with one or two bad pieces in 45 feet. We got caught up in that, and I think some of the 11+ R and X stuff I did were first ascents on lead. Plenty in Summit County and Independence Pass, where friends and I developed the good sport climbing across from Keystone ski area and Monitor Rock, on the Twin Lakes side of the Pass. I'm proud of the Monitor. It's one of the best areas in the state for well-protected sport routes up through 12b, and the setting is spectacular. I like going up there and seeing a lot of people enjoying those routes, makes me feel like I gave something of quality to the community. Some FA's on the boulders in those areas as well.

FRB: Do you have any 'heroes' in climbing?

Matt: Absolutely. Patrick Edlinger made me respect movement more than any aspect of climbing, which is why now I enjoy bouldering the most. Charlie Bentley for actually showing me that this STUFF WAS POSSIBLE… But now, mostly Moelter and Xander because they can climb as hard as they do and just stay grounded. I love watching those guys do hard stuff because it kind of matters, but not as much as going out that night with the boys… they keep it fun and enjoy it for what it is.

FRB: What do you think of enhancing, chipping
          and gluing holds?

Matt: Wow…my first reaction is that I'm not into any of it. Then again, I have climbed routes that have been glued, drilled, etc., and really enjoyed them, which makes me guilty by action. I remember we dug about a 1/2 ton of dirt away from the Onion Roll boulder up in Summit County because we were desperate for quality problems. We always justified it by saying the boulder was in a clear cut, and that the problems were really good. I still climb on that boulder now and enjoy it. So what can I say? Obviously things are being climbed now that seemed impossible, so doctoring stuff can rob the next generation. As for repairing classic problems, if it's done well, I wouldn't argue against it. The way I see it, owning and running a gym, come create the perfect problem here, or get stronger here and do that problem you are staring at, dreaming about. That's what indoor climbing is largely about. Then, promote and support the Access Fund's Bouldering Campaign. That is the best action we can take.

FRB: Who do you think makes the best shoes
          for bouldering ?

Matt: I have always worn La Sportiva, because they fit me perfectly, are impeccably made and last forever. It's only a bonus that they are local and wearing them helps support a local company and local climbers. Not to mention they have always supported events at the BRC.

FRB: What are some of your favorite climbing gyms?

Matt: Without a doubt the Boulder Rock Club. It's the third I've been very involved in, and by far the best. We have a great staff, and host an amazing climbing community. Every business owner should have our clientele. They are concerned, invested, and picky, which only keeps us on our toes and helps us improve, and they reward us for that. Plus, all my friends are here. Every time I come here I'm laughing. It's the best job in the world. After the BRC, I would have to say In Climb in Bend, Oregon, and the Front in Salt Lake City. In Climb has great bouldering and is run by two of the finest people in the industry, Larry and Leah Bromwell. The Front just raised the bar. I wish every gym could look like that place, including ours. Beautiful to climb in AND hang out in. Then there's my garage.

FRB: What makes for a good competition routes?

Matt: Have Mike Moelter and Scott Mechler set the routes, or Jimmy, Justen, Eli and Terry set the routes. These guys are the best at what they do - making indoor climbing fun. It takes a lot of work, setting a good comp. The routes must have an ascending order of difficulty to build excitement, they can't have stopper party trick moves, they can't be height dependent, they can't hurt, they need to spread the field based on talent, and for bouldering, they must be safe to a large degree. All this requires a lot of skill, time, and patience, not to mention a good working knowledge of competitor's abilities.

FRB: Where are some of your favorite places
          to climb/boulder?

Matt: Right now Carter Lake would have to be my favorite place. I live out that way, and a couple times a week I go out there by myself and just do my circuit alone. I love the setting and the stone, and the movement of so many of the problems. Even in the middle of the summer it's nice out there at 5 am, so I get out there and then come to work. I still love climbing in the mountains. I go up to Summit County a lot in the summer, and Red Cliff. That place has some of the best rock I've ever climbed on, and it reminds me of Rumney and home. I do like Chaos a lot, and some of the classics in Eldo. I'm not to sure where my rope is right now, so I'm not to sure about that there taller stuff.

FRB: What hard problems have you sent
          in the Front Range?

Matt: Let me rephrase that to "hard for me." I've done Super Chief out at Carter from the low start, which was a major effort for me. I've done almost all the classics there through V7. I've done some harder stuff in Chaos, like Tommy's Arete. I also did Via The Hot One up in Frisco after some work, which I was really psyched about. I'm mostly about doing lots of problems. I like huge circuits, with lots of V5 and V6. I like to do 25 - 35 problems in a day, so working on something really difficult is hard for me to get motivated for.

FRB: What are some things you don't like about
          the Front Range bouldering scene?

Matt: Don't like? Man, not much at all. I guess I'm in the thick of it all the time, between work and play, and I generally enjoy it the whole time. Sure, people take it seriously, but I do as well, and I don't have issues with intensity. Hell, people complain about our BCS events at the gym, and I could get all worked up about it, but they are here competing, and if they complain, it's usually because they want to make this stuff better. I'm psyched that people are vocal and opinionated. It helps us get things done, move in the right direction. Flag tears up my fingers, but I can't think of much else.

FRB: What direction do you see bouldering going?
          What direction would you like to see it go?

Matt: I think it will become more popular, and I do believe it will become the aspect of rock climbing that allows the sport to break into the mainstream press and sports coverage. I think due to the excitement, the quick movement, the intensity, and even the "big" falls, bouldering, and more specifically bouldering competitions, could break the sport out of its past, which has seen limited coverage and press outside of the industry. I would like to see the sport go this way. I would like to see committed, gifted athletes make a living at what they do. I would like to see the venues be able to hold comps that are a success financially b/c there are corporate sponsors excited about the sport. I do, however, think the soul of the sport will always remain what it is - someone outside, by themselves, unlocking moves in a way that makes them smile. That will never change.

FRB: Bouldering is popular right now. What prompted it?
          Why is it Bouldering? How long is it gonna stay?

Matt: I think a lot of things have contributed to the growth. There are a lot of boulders, more so than quality cliffs, in a lot of areas. It is accessible financially, in that it requires far less gear, which may account for an explosion of growth in the 12 - 21 age bracket. It is social, fun, and exciting, it can be done year-round. I also think, especially around here, the lack of new roped-route potential has turned a lot of motivated climbers to the boulders in search of new challenges. Equipment advances have also widened the sports appeal. No matter how you look at it, people like pads. I think it will stick around for a long time. Unlike skate boarding (which a lot of people compare to the bouldering craze), where parks closed down in the 80's and kids lost their venues, bouldering is all around, and readily available, if we respect the resource. Sure, the growth may slow a bit, but it will remain popular. I don't think you will see the large ups and downs like the skate industry experienced.

FRB: Do you have any projects right now?

Matt: Sure. I need to link the white X, neon pink, and black routes in my garage. I need to expand the BRC. I need to cut a funk album. I need to go buy something nice for the wife. I need to school Zio at hoops. It never ends. But other than that, I would like to finish off Just Right up at Flag, and this thing on the Gill Boulder that will be hard for me, but I'll do it, 'cause it speaks to me.

FRB: What do you suggest to people who are just starting
          in climbing/bouldering?

Matt: Keep it fun. Bouldering / climbing is a hobby for everyone but a few, and it should be fun. Start off slow, and if necessary get instruction. The best way to enjoy the sport is to have the confidence that you are doing it safely. As for bouldering, go with good spotters, and learn how to spot well. That makes it fun and safe, so you can think about climbing, not falling.

FRB: Any words of wisdom on how to climb hard?

Matt: Drink a lot of water and keep the connective tissue strong. That sounds like injury-prevention, but it is key. Work the antagonistic muscles and to stay healthy and balanced. For me, when I have climbed my hardest, it has been about the movement. That is what motivates me. Discover what motivates you and fine projects that suit that drive. Learn from the attempts. The key to the puzzle is in falling, not sending.

FRB: Do you ever hit a plateau in your climbing?
          How do you overcome the plateau?

Matt: Sure I have. Usually rest. Not complete rest, but mental and physical time off from climbing at my limit. I will often just go do circuits where no problem is harder than V2. I enjoy climbing to much to stop entirely, but scaling back helps me recover and reestablish my motivation. I also limit my time dedicated to climbing, and do the other things I really enjoy.

FRB: What inspires you to train?

Matt: Friends, music, and movement. Movement mostly. It is why I have a hard time just training through lifting, for example. Having problems with good, exciting moves gets me really psyched. I will work on something forever if just doing one of the cool moves on it feels like success. Also people. Having the gang get psyched for me always helps. The home-field advantage in a way.

FRB: Parting words of wisdom?

Matt: Join the Access Fund. They are our best friend in the long haul. Cheer on your friends and strangers. Spot. Keep your thumbs in. And smile… smile, smile, smile. This whole thing ain't much if it isn't fun. Peace.

FRB: .Thanks for the interview Matty

Matt: You're welcome, see you at the Boulder Rock Club.

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